Fact Check

Is This a Lightning Bolt Resembling the 'Circle Game' Gesture?

You can never be too careful when playing the circle game.

Published July 24, 2019

A photograph shows a lightning bolt resembling the "circle game" hand gesture.

A photograph supposedly showing a bolt of lightning resembling the hand gesture used in the "circle game," a popular schoolyard activity, is frequently shared online:

This is not a genuine photograph of a lightning bolt but rather a picture digitally manipulated for humorous purposes. The doctored picture is based off of a genuine photograph of a lightning bolt taken during a severe thunderstorm in the United Kingdom in May 2018. According to the BBC, this storm saw approximately 15,000 lightning strikes within four hours:

Thunderstorms and torrential rain have swept across parts of southern Britain, with lightning flashing across the sky.

Around 15,000 lightning strikes were recorded in four hours on Saturday night, BBC Weather said.

Stansted Airport reported delays to flights on Sunday morning after a lightning strike briefly left its aircraft fuelling system "unavailable".

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for heavy rain and flooding across Wales and most of England.

A house in Stanway, Essex, lost its roof to a fire after lightning struck it in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Firefighters worked on the blaze for almost three hours, eventually extinguishing it at 04:30 BST. No injuries were reported in the incident.

The "circle game" lightning bolt is based off of a photograph that was taken by Tom Jacobs for Reuters. It is available via the BBC with the caption: "The Met Office has warned of flooding and possible damage to buildings from lightning, which is pictured here striking over the city of London."

Here's a comparison of the doctored photograph (left) and the original photograph (right):


BBC.   "Spectacular Lightning Strikes Parts of UK."     27 May 2018.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.